Wildfire near Yosemite forces thousands to flee homes

Posted at 3:41 PM, Jul 19, 2017

By Jason Hanna and David Williams

Kim Strauss didn’t see the wildfire consume his California residence, but he says he’d be surprised if the home was still there.

Strauss is one of a few thousand people who were told to leave their homes because of a wildfire raging in California’s Mariposa County, to the west of Yosemite National Park. He saw the flames approaching from a ridge near his house southwest of Mariposa city on Tuesday morning.

A sheriff’s officer told him and his girlfriend that they had 10 minutes to leave.

“I got my clothes and I grabbed my girlfriend’s dresser and her pictures and her stuff, and I grabbed my mom’s stuff, and the dogs” and put everything in a pickup truck, he told CNN affiliate KRON. “It’s our first home, and I worked hard on it.”

The Detwiler Fire, which started Sunday near Lake McClure, has burned more than 45,000 acres and was 7% contained Wednesday morning, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

About 4,000 people have been evacuated, including the entire city of Mariposa a few miles west of the park, and eight structures have been destroyed, officials said. The park itself has issued no warning for visitors, but the fire is threatening power lines that supply Yosemite, state fire officials said. Gov. Jerry Brown declared an emergency for the county.

Here’s what the fire has looked like, in images shared by people at the scene:

Help from 200 miles away

More than 2,200 firefighters are fighting the blaze, including a crew from the Southern California city of Lompoc, some 200 miles away.

The Lompoc firefighters posted videos and pictures to Instagram on Tuesday. It was their 12th straight day on the road, and they had helped fight two other wildfires before the Detwiler fire.

‘Grabbed most of my clothes’

Stephanie Warner, a guide at Yosemite, has been living in Mariposa only for a month. She and her housemates were among those evacuated from the city of about 2,000 people Tuesday.

She posted to Instagram a picture of what she wrote was the “super creepy” sky around the time she was packing.

“(I) grabbed most of my clothes, laptop, electronics, important documents,” among other things, she told CNN.

A police officer told her and her housemates to leave around 4 p.m. PT, roughly three hours after power went out. She said Wednesday that she was staying in Fresno, wondering if the house in Mariposa will survive.

Home safe for now

George Bell-Uribe said it appeared that fire wasn’t threatening his Mariposa-area home Wednesday morning. He said the flames appeared to have been stopped about a mile from his residence, and he praised firefighters’ work.

Video that he posted Wednesday to Instagram showed a generally hazy area, and, as the camera panned to the right, smoke rising from hills in the distance.

View from a hospital

Jen Wright took this video from her workplace, John C. Fremont Hospital near Mariposa, on Tuesday:

The Detwiler Fire, named for one of the roads in the area, is one of 17 large wildfires burning in California on Wednesday, officials said. The cause of the Detwiler blaze wasn’t immediately known, but hot, dry conditions conducive to such fires have persisted for days.

The National Weather Service warned that northeastern California’s Modoc County was at high risk of new wildfires Wednesday afternoon because of gusty winds and low humidity.